by Mark Boujikian, CFP®

 

My wife and I welcomed our first child , our daughter, Keylin, in September of 2016.  Seemingly overnight, our lives went from structured and simple to disjointed and chaotic.  Our definition of success has slowly migrated to getting just a partial night’s sleep.   Our conversational voices now have an upward inflection known as “baby talk” at the end of every sentence. Through it all, the most fascinating experience has been the knowing smirk on the face of every parent we meet that denotes the “been there, done that”, reminiscing of their own days with a newborn.

The trials and tribulations of being a new parent are well documented by all who share this experience, but my wife and I ran across something even more chaotic during a recent dinner gathering …the topic of holiday spending. 

Holiday SaleBlack Friday, Cyber Monday, Giving Tuesday, Small Business Saturday, free shipping, door-buster deals, have invaded our home and the homes of loved ones.  With a little research, I learned that the average holiday spending for consumers is approximately $800, more than half of which is spent on gifts for family members!

I didn’t believe this would impact our household until I saw the wish list my wife and mother-in-law had compiled for our daughter, Keylin.  The list was designed to give family members shopping ideas of what Keylin, now all of 3 months old, would enjoy this, her 1st Christmas.  It ranged from blocks and toys to Macy gift cards!  As I added up the price tags, that $800 average spending became a distant memory.

Now of course, these were just suggestions that would be spread among a number of family members that want nothing but the best for our newborn baby girl, but the concept got us thinking about the need to bring some structure to the holiday shopping season.  So, as you begin your own shopping adventure, here are the 4 “pain-relieving secrets” used by a Certified Financial Planner™ during his first holiday shopping season with a newborn:

 

1.) Trim your list

  • The driving force behind anxiety during the holidays is overspending. The antidote to overspending is to create a list of recipients and stick to that list.  Sure, it’s easy to justify buying a gift for every member in the family tree.   But, resist!  Will 2nd cousin Billy really appreciate your gift enough to justify your anxious feeling  about whether or not you will be able to make your next mortgage payment?
  • In our household, we simply told our family to forget buying for us and just think of Keylin. This helps to remove the anxiety of the “reciprocal gift” that comes when we feel obligated to return the favor.

2.) Know your limit

  • You don’t need a budget to know when your spending gets a bit out of hand. Knowing what you can comfortably spend in advance helps you stick to a plan before stepping foot in a store.   Our method was to use a simple Excel sheet to add up the gifts and quickly tally how much we were planning to spend, removing the anxiety from our purchase list and our bank account.

3.) Plan ahead

  • Shopping malls during the holidays can be equated to battlefields as thousands of people flood establishments to take advantage of year-end deals. Checking prices online ahead of forging out to the mall arms us with knowledge.  Planning our trip around special “savings days” at retail stores, shopping for coupons in advance, and taking advantage of free shipping with online purchases helped alleviate creeping anxiety.  Couple that with cash back programs like E-bates, and we were able to stay focused on planned purchases and limit the time spent exposed to the siren song of “sales” during the holidays.

4.) Enjoy the season

  • In the end, the holidays are about enjoying friends and family. Staying focused on time with loved ones and other joys of the season can help you to keep stress in perspective.
  • Getting back to a structured and simple approach to holiday spending with the goal of “responsibly spoiling” those on your gift list helps you end the year in control of your money. There’s nothing better than starting off the New Year on the right financial foot.

 

Wishing everyone a happy holiday season and a great start to the New Year!